Mary Jo Fox gets a few things wrong in comments below.
For one, she suggests that my decision to play the City Council results on Page 3 indicated pro-Garver bias. Nonsense. Regular readers know that we typically play election results on Page 2 or 3. There's a simple explanation: Tuesday is Outpost production night, so I don't have time during elections to do more than gather bare results. By the time the paper comes out on Thursday, I figure that everybody who is even a little interested knows the bare results. So I play them inside. It's utterly unrelated to who wins or loses.
For another, she still seems to be under the illusion that my early pick of Al Garver to win the mayor's race indicated a pro-Garver bias. This is just weird. I picked George Bush to win the Montana vote for president in both 2000 and 2004. Does that mean I wanted him to win? Uh, no.
Third, she still can't figure out why I objected to a question she posed at a mayoral forum I moderated. I swore I wouldn't write about this anymore, but let me add just this bit of perspective: To me the question resembled the flier attacking Garver in the final days of the campaign. It wasn't that the issues raised in the flier were illegitimate; it was that they were late, inflammatory and likely to backfire. I think that kind of stuff undermines democracy, and it irritates me.
Finally, she suggests that Ron Tussing's problems with The Outpost relate only to my woefully inaccurate prediction. Actually, his problems with us go back a good deal further, at least to an October 1999 story that detailed allegations of improper police conduct (sorry, too far back for a link, but I'll send you a copy for 50 cents plus $1 shipping and handling). The allegations were aired at two public meetings about police behavior, and we reported them at length. If memory serves, no one else covered the meetings.
The chief and I had a heated discussion about the story, and he wrote a detailed response, which we printed in full the following week. I didn't really blame him for being angry for several reasons:
1. I wish we had done more reporting to try to nail down the allegations better. But when people are alleging that authorities are acting improperly, to what authority can one turn to validate their claims? Still, if I could edit the story again, I would do it differently.
2. I like it when a boss stands up for his people. I wish I knew a few more who did.
3. His written response gave me a strange epiphany. It began, "The Outpost has apparently digressed from its efforts to become an alternate news source to becoming an alternate reality source." It was a good line, which I have often quoted. He went on to say many less kind things. That week was a lousy one in terms of revenue for The Outpost, and on publication day, it occurred to me that there I was, out delivering papers for 10 or 12 hours, all for no money, just so I could let the police chief tell the citizens of Billings what an irresponsible jerk I was. I can't imagine that any business but a newspaper would do such a thing, except under court order.
While the specific allegations we reported may have gone nowhere, allegations that the police department doesn't handle complaints adquately were recently reiterated by Montana People's Action and sustained in the Reiter report.
Still, we've never questioned Tussing's competence or intelligence, and we were seriously considering endorsing him this year until he talked us out of it. The man can hold a grudge. Which is why I've wondered whether he was the right guy to be mayor, a position that demands diplomacy, tact and a long fuse. Maybe he will do fine. Until I know for sure, I'll stay out of shoving distance.